Motoring / Road Tests

Glen Hill
5 minute read
1 Jun 2016
2:08 pm

BMW enters the hybrid ring

Glen Hill

Intelligent hybrid powertrain control optimises electric motor efficiency.

Following hot on the heels of Volvo’s XC90 plugin hybrid, BMW have thrown their hat into the ring with the BMW X5 xDrive40e. With a total system output of 230kW generated by a four-cylinder petrol engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology and a synchronous electric motor, the BMW X5 xDrive40e achieves a combined fuel consumption of 3.4 – 3.3 litres per 100 kilometres, 15.4 – 15.3kWh over the same distance and CO2 emissions of between 78 – 77 grams per kilometre.

These are perhaps the essential figures surrounding hybrid vehicles, emphasizing their low fuel consumption and reduced negative impact on the environment. For those considering owning one, these figures must be read in context. In the BMW I was recording figures as low as 1.9 litres per 100km, but once the battery is depleted this rose rapidly to around 8 litres per 100km for similar performance – not bad for a big luxury SUV, but far higher.

The key is to work out your own use cycle. When the high-voltage battery is fully charged, the vehicle has a range of up to 31km in the all-electric drive mode with a limited maximum speed of 120km/h.

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So for short commutes it is fantastic. It is quiet, it is super smooth and power is instantaneous. In reality, in Gauteng many drivers would need a quick charge at work. Initially companies are quite likely to allow this or even encourage it, given that drivers of these kindS of high-end derivatives are probably company decision-makers, but what of the future?

Sure it costs only about 20 bucks or so to charge from empty, but when a whole bunch of employees want 20 bucks extra a day plus the cost of the infrastructure being green may not be so cool.

So I doubt there are or will be many company lots equipped for the recharge, so assume that the engine is going to work on the way home at least. Just a caution. But the technology is wonderful.

The energy for the electric motor integrated in the 8-speed Steptronic transmission is drawn from a lithium-ion battery, which also supplies power to the low-voltage battery for the 12V electrical system aboard the BMW X5 xDrive40e via a voltage transformer. It can be recharged by connecting to any standard domestic power socket or a BMW i Wallbox, as well as at public charging stations.

To save space the high-voltage battery is housed underneath the luggage compartment floor, where it is also well-protected in the event of a crash. The intelligent hybrid powertrain control ensures that the engine and the electric motor act in unison in a way that optimises efficiency, but remains responsive to the driver’s wishes.

If you want it to go, it goes. BMW claims it completes the sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.8 seconds. The eDrive button on the centre console allows the driver to adjust the hybrid drive’s operating mode.

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In the AUTO eDrive basic setting, the engine’s power is boosted to noticeable effect when accelerating or during quick bursts of speed by the electric drive, whose full torque of 250 Newton metres is on tap from standstill for instantaneous power delivery.

Alternatively, the MAX eDrive mode can be engaged, enabling the BMW X5 xDrive40e to run purely on electric power – when driving in urban traffic for instance – resulting in zero local emissions.

The SAVE Battery mode can also be activated at the touch of a button, causing the high-voltage battery’s state of charge to be maintained or allowing energy to be accumulated again, also by means of recuperation, if capacity is low.

In this way, electrical energy can be deliberately conserved for all-electric driving later in the journey. Regardless of the setting chosen with the eDrive button, the power stemming from both drive sources is permanently transmitted to the road via the intelligent all-wheel-drive system, BMW xDrive.

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The various vehicle set-ups that can be selected with the Driving Experience Control switch – Comfort, Sport and Eco Pro – are also available in all drive modes. All of the driver assistance systems and mobility services from BMW ConnectedDrive offered as standard or as optional extras for the more conventional X5s are also available to provide enhanced driving pleasure in the eDrive derivative.

An intelligent energy management function is also offered as a special model-specific feature that can be used in conjunction with the Navigation System Professional which is fitted as standard in the BMW X5 xDrive40e.

Whenever route guidance is active, data on the route profile is factored into powertrain control along with real-time traffic information. When driving medium to long distances, the system can therefore ensure it is possible to drive purely on electric power on urban sections by using Brake Energy Regeneration, and managing the high-voltage battery’s energy reserves in a targeted and efficient manner.

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The hybrid-specific version of the BMW Remote app makes it possible to check the high-voltage battery’s state of charge, locate public charging stations or call up efficiency evaluations for the BMW X5 xDrive40e on a smartphone. The auxiliary heating and ventilation functions can also be activated remotely.

The BMW i Wallbox including installation service, is available for home charging as part of the BMW 360° Electric concept, offering customers a particularly fast and convenient means of recharging the high-voltage battery while parked. Model-specific assistance services are also available.

The ChargeNow service provides cash-free access to all BMW charging stations with the ChargeNow card. Wide-ranging equipment options include an auxiliary heating and ventilation system. This is powered by electricity from the high-voltage battery or from the mains supply while charging.

The BMW X5 xDrive40e additionally comes equipped as standard with the Adaptive Suspension Package Comfort including rear air suspension and Dynamic Damper Control.